Posts Tagged ‘ publishing industry ’

Why Bad Things Happen To Good Book Ideas, a workshop with Dale Fetherling

Dale is an author, editor, teacher, and a great workshop facilitator. This workshop focused on the art of crafting a winning nonfiction book proposal. He began with two tough questions for anyone with a book idea:

  • Is the idea viable?
  • Are you the person to write it?

These are the questions on a publisher’s mind when she reads your proposal. So the author’s job is to get the publisher or editor to answer these questions with a resounding Yes! YES!

Dale begins with the creation of a solid hook. A few hook-writing approaches he suggests you employ:

  • nifty anecdote
  • bold statement
  • first person statement
  • compelling statistics

And then he talks about placing that hook right up front, in the first page of your proposal. In fact, the first page of your proposal, or any query letter, ought to have a series of three engaging hooks:

  • subject hook
  • book hook
  • author hook

Dale also offers a fantastic handout, The Anatomy of a Book Proposal. Here are the basics:

First third, 5-15 pages

  • overview: your compelling, detailed case for the subject, the book, and the author
  • market: why will this book sell well?
  • promotion: what are you going to do to help the publisher sell your book?
  • competing titles: up to six published titles that compete with your project
  • author credentials: why are you the right person to write this book?

Middle third, 10-25 pages

  • chapter outline

Final third, 20-40 pages

  • sample chapter

Dale reviews each of these projects in detail, but most compelling are his suggestions about the competing titles list and the market section. These sections typically overwhelm writers, no matter how enthused we are about our ideas.

An author needs to get very clear on exactly who will buy the book, Dale says. And exactly how are you and the publisher going to reach those readers? The research into competing titles can shed light on this question. Go to a big bookstore, and to Amazon, and to the library, and begin to compile a list. You’ll want to pare it down to no more than six titles eventually, but start out looking for books that relate to yours in these ways:

  • What is the classic work on this subject?
  • What major publishing successes exist on this topic?
  • What has been published recently on this topic?

Finally, Dale’s compiled a fascinating list of ten major reasons book proposals are rejected. Check out Dale Fetherling’s site. If you write to him, he might just share his list with you.

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Plys & Plus

And speaking of pie, I have a friend who runs a business called Pie. He is a real businessman with expertise and knowledge and venture capitalists following him around. He has a blog called PLYs and PLUs.

Drew Banks is a self-described entrepreneur, business author, and novelist. And his blog brings all the most interesting aspects of those three roles into one place. So you can read about his experiences getting his two novels published as well as about how he got his company funded.

I like to read what Drew writes, so I hope he’ll keep blogging. I’m hoping that the peer pressure of a few hits on his site today will shake loose a new post from this wise man.

Summer, 2004, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA

Listen to the Bellefaire Podcast


I wanted to have a category for recommended reading, where I can feature the writing of my friends, colleagues, clients, and heroes. Funny then, that my first contribution to the reading category is a recommended podcast, The Bellefaire Podcast, specifically.

Because, just in time for some holiday lounging, MJ Hahn’s released episode 15, the final chapter in his positively addictive and intriguing tale, Yuki O’Malley and the Bellefaire.

Beneath every form of media you love lurks a writer: pop music, rock videos, sit-coms, and even reality TV. But so many writers focus on the publishing industry when we fantasize about the ultimate expression of our work.

Today’s media-saturated, all-access network expands possibilities beyond the hardbound great American novel to endless satisfying, creative, and rewarding routes to an audience. Blog software like WordPress lends itself to serializing your novel. You Tube lets you broadcast your own video productions. And iTunes pumps your podcast into the earbuds of the masses.

Like many great writers, Hahn surely hears voices, but he doesn’t just merely write down the stories in his head. He produces and records them.

The Bellefaire Podcast is a serial horror drama aimed at the Harry Potter crowd. Yuki, the biracial, semi-psychic, anime-esque, pre -teen heroine and her phantasmic, ass-kicking, ’80s punk rock teen sidekick, Tina, face villains who wreak of greed and vanity at a spooky salon for women of a certain age. Did I mention it all happens on the streets of San Francisco? It’s quite fantastic.

Hahn voices most of characters himself. Especially notable is his sultry, trashy Madame LaMal, but Lee Ann Parker’s voice is a delight as the perfect Yuki. In fact, each of the actresses Hahn’s assembled adds depth and character to his already character-driven writing.

So go download the 15 episodes before your long drive to holiday gatherings or before your post-holiday-meal coma. Get inspired to think about how you’ll unleash the voices in your own head next year.

La Jolla Writer’s Conference

Sometimes it’s hard to be a writer among other writers, but I know it’s even worse to be isolated as an artist. That’s why next weekend I’m going back to my roots, to San Diego, to attend the La Jolla Writer’s Conference.

LJWC is a friendly little conference, and I intend to use it as a creative incubator for my own writing as well as the many projects I support as a teacher, coach, collaborator, and editor.

Attending a writer’s conference as a teacher and a student, an editor and a writer, opens up many opportunities. I can both contribute and learn. I expect to improve my query letter writing skills and meet people in the publishing industry. I also know that I’ll enjoy inspiring stories from writers who make their living writing and get a chance to network with writers and writing industry pros.

A writer’s conference can feel like going home for any writer because it offers such writing creature comforts. For me, this conference offers that experience in more ways than one. Since the novel I’m writing next takes place in San Diego, I’ll be exploring the home of the characters I’m creating now. Since this is my dad’s conference of choice, I’ll be spending writing intensive time with the man who taught me to write. And because San Diego is my home of origin, I’ll be walking the beaches I walked as a teen.

I strongly recommend this conference and writing conferences in general to any writer. You may be surprised at what you find and what you learn. I know that sometimes it is hard going back to your roots, but I also know that it’s harder to be an artist without them.

1974, La Mesa, CA